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USA Weightlifting Moves to Hawaii Ahead of 2020 Olympic Games. Here’s Why

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (occurring in 2021) will be bittersweet for athletes. In March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that international spectators wouldn’t be allowed to attend. The news wasn’t a complete shock amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Still, it was nonetheless disappointing as many competitors won’t have the support of their friends and family at an event that only takes place once every four years. 

USA Weightlifting is taking matters into their own hands by moving their operations to Hawaii, a decision that will allow athletes to train around their coaches, friends, and family before shipping off to Tokyo. USAW announced the news in a press release on May 6, 2021.

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The USAW Hawaii Strong Camp

“Respecting the need to keep the city and people of Tokyo safe, the IOC has implemented significant restrictions in movement, people, and time in Tokyo,” USAW CEO Phil Andrews tells BarBend. “This made our original plan to have support personal, particularly personal coaches and performance personnel of athletes with them at this critical time.

“Similarly, we view it as extremely important to have the close family and friends of athletes present to the fullest extent it is possible going into the Olympic Games,” Andrews adds. “Hawaii is the closest place in the United States to Tokyo and provides a direct flight into the city. This allows our team to begin to adjust to Tokyo time, while we will further adjust while we train in Honolulu.”

As Andrews states, there are a couple of distinct advantages of this Hawaii-based training center — dubbed The USAW Hawaii Strong Camp, powered by NBH Bank. For one, it is a pre-approved testing site by Japan, so as long as athletes test negative for COVID-19, they can immediately enter the Olympic bubble. This means athletes can spend more time with their friends, family, and extended coaching staff before traveling roughly eight hours to Japan. (By comparison, the flying time from Colorado to Japan is over 12 hours.) 

The project, on the whole, is a big investment, Andrews says, but significantly less than the original Tokyo Strong house — a state-of-the-art facility that USAW was building to ensure athletes are prepared for the 2020 Games. This swift pivot to Hawaii will help facilitate what Andrews believes “could well be our best Games in 61 years.” The facility is located at the ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, and USAW plans to be there from early July through August 4th. The money saved moving to Hawaii will allow USAW Paris 2024 hopefuls the chance to attend the facility and get a taste of the Olympic experience.

The reaction from athletes and their families has been positive, Andrews says. Athletes competing in Tokyo will also work with Dr. Jeff Durmer, a sleep expert, to help them adjust to the 19-hour time difference. Come game time, USAW will host watch parties for friends and families.

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Of course, 81-kilogram lifter Harrison Maurus wants his family in Tokyo with him, but he’s grateful they’ll be alongside him as he trains for his Olympic Games debut.

“[My parents] been such a vital part of my success over the years, and it would have been an amazing opportunity to have them cheer me on in person,” Maurus tells BarBend. “That being said, I’ll still be able to compete as normal and represent to the best of my ability regardless. Thanks to the new Hawaii Strong program, they’ll still be able to watch me compete, and I know they’ll be cheering me on from where ever they are.”

Maurus, who got bronze at the 2020 Pan American Games, doesn’t see any downside to this location shift. The 21-year-old believes that having the entire Team USA together will produce a positive and constructive training environment. 

“Having [my parents] in Hawaii for the final stretch of my preparation and while I compete will only give me even more drive,” Maurus says. 

On to the 2020 Olympic Games

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are set to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021. USA Weightlifting has yet to announce the full roster of athletes representing the U.S. However, the recent 2020 Pan American Games (held in April 2021) was a record showcase for American lifters. Here are all of the athletes who set American and/or Pan American records at the event.

Note: * indicates an American record and ** indicates a Pan American record.

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